Sittingbourne net Lovell

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The Independent Online

Steve Lovell, the former Crystal Palace, Millwall, Gillingham and Wales striker, has been entrusted with the task of rescuing the stuttering fortunes of the ambitious Kent club, Sittingbourne.

Under John Ryan, the former Cambridge United manager, Sittingbourne were serious challengers for the Beazer Homes League Premier Division title for much of last season, three years after leaving the Kent League, before falling away to finish eighth.

With one of the best non-League grounds in the country under construction at Central Park, and a costly squad of experienced players at the club, hopes were high of making further progress towards the GM Vauxhall Conference and beyond this season.

Things did not go to plan, however, and in October Sittingbourne declared debts of £1.14m set against realisable assets of just £266,000. Fortunes have also taken a turn for the worse on the pitch, with the team struggling to stay out of the relegation zone.

Lovell, who has been playing for their Beazer Premier rivals, Hastings, took over at Sittingbourne when Ryan left to take charge at Dover last week. Lovell, who won six caps for Wales, scored on his debut at home to Worcester last weekend, but could not prevent a 2-1 defeat.

Worse was to follow on Wednesday with a 4-0 loss at home to Richie Powling's Sudbury Town side, one of several teams below Sittingbourne with games in hand. With the club facing an uncertain financial future, Lovell faces a tough task to prevent his new charges slipping back down the non-League pyramid.

More managerial upheaval: Sutton United are now under the caretaker managership of their former player, Larry Pritchard, following last week's resignation of Alan Gane, who steered the Diadora League club to the third round of the FA Cup last season. After three consecutive top-five finishes in the Premier Division, Sutton are currently fourth from bottom. Pritchard is being assisted by Ted Shepherd, previously in charge at Crawley Town.

Tomorrow's Conference fixture between Dover and Macclesfield has been switched to the latter's Moss Rose stadium, to allow the Kent club to work on their weather-ravaged pitch at The Crabble. Dover will entertain Macclesfield on 25 March.